Hi, and welcome back!
When you travel to Japan, one of the first concern is how to communicate with people there, how to ask for help or information. So, here I want to share with you some basics of the Japanese language for beginners, to help you at least understand what you will find!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a linguist, I am just someone who’s been studying Japanese for a very long time…
Japanese language for beginners: four different writing systems
I found out recently that tourists who travel to Japan are quite curious about this strange and complicated system, so here I am, starting from the beginning.
Japanese has 4 main writing system:
What are Kanji
The first, kanji, are of course the most complex and difficult to remember and study (there are around 3000 kanji, just sayin’…); they are symbols with a meaning, and they are usually employed for nouns or verb radicals.
What are Hiragana and Katakana
You then have the 2 phonetic alphabets: hiragana and katakana. The first is used for particles, verbs conjucations and so on, while the second is used for foreign words (such as personal names) and loanwords mainly from english (such as “taxi”, “switch”, “menu” and so on…).
What are Romaji
Finally, romaji is the latin alphabet, and it can appear sometimes in sentences when you have company names, or foreign newspaper names for example…
When you start learning Japanese, you begin from hiragana and katakana (just like children do); keep in mind that every Japanese word, even if it has a proper kanji (or a combination of kanji) to use, can be spelled with the hiragana writing, so that’s the fastest way to learn vocabulary in the beginning.
What do you think? What is your experience with Japanese? Let me know in the comment below!